When you're rebuilding, you need recruits. Rutgers and St. John's are both very much programs mired in protracted rebuilds. So it's probably a good thing they're landing recruits.
First, Rutgers. After the losses of Mike Rosario, Greg Echenique and Hamady Ndiaye, new coach Mike Rice has a lot of roster-building to do if he wants the Scarlet Knights to be even remotely competitive in the coming years. Rice was hired too late to truly give the 2010 class a run, but he's making up for it in 2011.
First, Rice got a verbal commitment from 6-foot-8 power forward Kadeem Jack, who is outside the ESPNU 100 but is rated as highly as No. 33 overall in the class by some other recruiting services. Then, a day later, Rice landed Myles Mack, the No. 16-ranked point guard in the country and one of New Jersey's top 2011 prospects. Both players are local kids; Mack hails from Bob Hurley's storied St. Anthony's program in Paterson, N.J., and Jack comes from Manhattan Rice high school in New York.
St. John's coach Steve Lavin has a similar recruiting goal -- keep local talent local -- and got his first big-time commitment to that effect this week, too. Small forward Maurice Harkless, the No. 19-ranked small forward (and No. 81-ranked overall prospect) in the 2011 class committed to St. John's on Tuesday in a ceremony in front of Madison Square Garden. The Garden is perhaps Lavin's biggest recruiting tool; don't be surprised if every new St. John's commitment gets some sort of MSG-related ceremony. That's just smart salesmanship.
In any case, both schools are still years away from competing with the best of the Big East, and a few local recruits here and there aren't going to change that. But if this becomes a pattern, Rice and Lavin won't just be competing on the floor. They'll be competing for the hearts and minds of New York and New Jersey's high school talent. That's a place both coaches want -- and need -- to be.